Cape Town - The fixtures for the sixth edition of the Gold Cup - SA Rugby’s flagship national championship for non-university clubs - have been confirmed, with eight eagerly-awaited matches kicking off the popular tournament in cities and towns across the country on Saturday 9 March.
As part of wider changes to South African rugby’s competition landscape, this year’s event will revert to the pre-season time-slot that was a feature of the first three editions from 2013-2015. A leaner 16-team, six-week format is expected place a greater emphasis on strength versus strength, while the recent success of the past weekend’s Superhero Sunday event at Cape Town Stadium will be replicated at grassroots level with a number of double-header match days planned.
With defending champions False Bay having failed to qualify after a semi-final loss to Durbanville-Bellville in the 2018 Western Province Super League, the 2019 Gold Cup will see a new champion crowned and looks set to be the most closely fought edition in years.
KZN champions College Rovers - finalists in 2013 and 2017 - will start the tournament as one of the favourites, while the presence of 2014 and 2016 Cup winners Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), 2015 champions Durbanville-Bellville (WP) and 2014 runners-up Roodepoort (Golden Lions), amongst others, will ensure arguably the strongest field yet assembled.
Boland champions Villagers Worcester, established in 1883 and celebrating their 136th anniversary this year, have the honour of being the oldest club in this year’s Gold Cup. They will get their campaign underway at their Boland Park fortress against Northam Platinum Rhinos, the Limpopo mining club who celebrate their 25th anniversary milestone this year.
Club rugby’s rich history and heritage is further illustrated by the fact that College Rovers will celebrate their 120th anniversary - having been formed during the Anglo Boer War in 1899 - while Roodepoort are 75 years old this year. A number of other teams are also household names in SA club rugby.
“Club rugby is a national treasure and it’s a testament to everyone involved at this level of the game, from dedicated administrators and players to diehard fans and loyal sponsors, that it remains vibrant and relevant despite ongoing challenges,” said SA Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux.
“Nowhere on the planet does amateur rugby attract the crowds that it does in South Africa, especially in the Western and Eastern Cape.
“Last year alone, iconic venues such as Outeniqua Park in George, Boland Stadium in Wellington and Esselen Park in Worcester sold out for big club matches, while more than 10,000 people crammed into the Bridgton Sports Ground in Oudtshoorn for a second year running to watch a televised Gold Cup qualifier as part of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
“We expect similarly large crowds in the Gold Cup this year, none more so than at historic community venues such as Boland Park in Worcester, Rosemore Stadium in George, Reigerpark on the East Rand and Derrick Ferreira Stadium - better known as ‘Die Hok’ - in Uitenhage.
“Let’s also not forget that Durbanville-Bellville drew more than 5m000 people for a televised Gold Cup semi-final in 2016, while our broadcast partners SuperSport have televised club and provincial rugby from Impala Rugby Club in Rustenburg every year since 2015 thanks to its big crowds and vibrant, platteland atmosphere.”
Roux said that a sponsor for the 2019 Gold Cup had been secured and that an announcement in this regard would be made before the start of the tournament.
“It is also encouraging to see the number of clubs in this year’s field that have managed to secure naming-rights sponsors,” he said.
“It shows that club rugby holds a certain appeal, especially at a local or community level, and it is here that sponsors are recognising the value of being associated with their local team, who are often supported by thousands of people in the area in which they do business.”
The seedings for the four pools are based, amongst other things, on teams’ final positions in the last Gold Cup. The top two teams from each pool will progress to the quarter-finals on the weekend of 30 March, with the remaining eight teams eliminated.
The Gold Cup final, as well as a playoff for third and fourth place, is scheduled for the weekend of 13/14 April. Fixture venues and kick-off times, including those of planned double-headers, will be confirmed in due course.
2019 GOLD CUP POOLS:
Progress George (SWD)
Villagers Worcester (Boland)
College Rovers (Sharks)
East Rand United (wildcard, Falcons)
Naka Bulls (Blue Bulls)
Bloemfontein Police (Cheetahs)
Roodepoort (Golden Lions)
Rustenburg Impala (Leopards)
2019 GOLD CUP FIXTURES (all kick-off times & venues to be confirmed):
Round 1 - Saturday, March 9:
Progress George v Durbanville-Bellville
Villagers Worcester v Northam Platinum Rhinos
Gardens v Secunda
College Rovers v East Rand United
Naka Bulls v Sishen
Welkom v Bloemfontein Police
Roodepoort v Rustenburg Impala
Springs v Swallows
Round 2 - Saturday, March 16:
Durbanville-Bellville v Northam Platinum Rhinos
Progress George v Villagers Worcester
East Rand United v Secunda
Gardens v College Rovers
Sishen v Bloemfontein Police
Naka Bulls v Welkom
Newrak Impala v Swallows
Roodepoort v Springs
Round 3 - Saturday, March 23:
Villagers Worcester v Durbanville-Bellville
Northam Platinum Rhinos v Stiles Progress George
Secunda v College Rovers
East Rand United v Gardens
Welkom v Sishen
Recall Security Bloemfontein Police v Naka Bulls
Springs v Impala
Swallows v Roodepoort
Quarterfinals - March 30/31:
Quarterfinal 1 - Winner Pool C v Runner-up Pool D
Quarterfinal 2 - Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
Quarterfinal 3 - Winner Pool D v Runner-up Pool C
Quarterfinal 4 - Winner Pool A v Runner-up Pool B
Semifinals - April 6/7:
Semifinal 1 - Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
Semifinal 2 - Winner QF3 v Winner QF4
Final & 3rd/4th Playoff - 13/14 April:
Winner SF1 v Winner SF2
Gold Cup Champions:
2013 - Despatch (bt College Rovers in final)
2014 - Impala (bt RotoTank Roodepoort in final)
2015 - Durbanville-Bellville (bt Impala in final)
2016 - Impala (bt DirectAxis False Bay in final)
2017/18 - False Bay (bt College Rovers in final)